Sunday, October 2, 2011

Are Published Writers Divas?

If I'd had a crystal ball, I would have made a prediction about an anthology I've been editing. Several well-known authors have contributed stories. Very exciting, except I was worried about dealing with divas.

And I definitely am.

They fight every suggestion made by me or the other editors, copyeditors, and proofreaders. Even when five people on the editorial team insist something isn't working, they totally ignore the suggestions. They skip over requests for edits, so the manuscript has to be sent back multiple times requesting the same rewrites. They're so tied to their words that they argue about even small changes. Exactly what I was expecting, except...

The writers who are doing this are NOT the big-name authors.

The multi-published authors are a dream to work with. They turn in their edits on time and do a wonderful job on any requested rewrites, making the story stronger each time. They say "thank you" for the suggestions and say that the edits have improved the story. And every single one of them ends with a final line something like this: "If this doesn't work, please let me know, and I'll be glad to rewrite it."

So who are these divas I'm working with? They're the pre-published writers, the newbies, the ones who have had two magazine stories published in local magazines. They're the ones who are so puffed up about being included in an anthology with "real" authors that they cling doggedly to every word, every idea. "If this story was good enough to get me accepted, it should be ready to publish as is" is their mantra. They fail to realize that most editors accept on potential, not perfection. And sadly, they're making a name for themselves as being hard to work with, which may mean this could be their only shot at publication.

So while my peek into the crystal ball was accurate, the details were murky. I've learned that far from being divas, published authors are willing to work at their craft and seek ways to improve what they write. Which, most likely, is the real reason they're published.


Cate Masters said...

What a shame. Hopefully the newbies will realize the value of a good editor's insight!

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

Hmmm. I think that being a diva is more dependent on the person than their publishing status. I'd like to say that perhaps you've just had some bad experiences. I for one really strive to listen to my editors and I have had to beg for ruthless criticism before because it is what I wanted. I have never thought that my words were untouchable. It's a shame that there are some writers out there who feel that they are untouchable. Maybe it's because they got rejected so much and have become insulated toward any kind of feedback to protect themselves. What a peculiar thing though and your post has got me thinking.